It’s the summer of 2018 and college starts in the fall, but you’re still not sure how you’re going to pay for it. Yikes.
The cost of college creeps up a little more every year, so at least you aren't alone. Millions of students across the country hope to find extra funds for college so they can reduce the amount of federal and private loans necessary to pay their education bills.
If you want to firm up your financial footing before setting forth on your college journey, check out these five great tips.
Find Last-Minute Scholarships
Grants and scholarships are free money for college. Sure, there may be a few strings attached—keep up your grades or study a certain subject—but unlike a loan, you never pay back a scholarship.
Your financial aid award letter will let you know how much scholarship money you nabbed, but the story doesn't end there.
Scholarship money from outside organizations may still be available, either for this coming semester or a future one. Scholarships come from businesses, non-profit organizations, towns and cities, religious groups—and the list goes on. You just need to know where to look.
Start your summer scholarship search with USA Today’s list of the 10 best sites to search for scholarships. If you live in Indiana, check out our own list of the five best scholarships for Hoosier high achievers.
U.S. News and World Report also offers a list of late-deadline scholarships that might make the difference for you.
Find a Job
You know, your parents might be right: maybe you need a summer job. Sure, the thought of spending your final summer before college relaxing and mentally preparing yourself for the academic challenge ahead sounds great, but finding a job could relieve some stress further down the road.
Your summer earnings won’t take a huge bite out of your tuition, but they’ll help knock down some of the non-tuition costs of college like books, dorm furnishings, and so on. And it adds valuable experience to your résumé, which lays the groundwork for a part-time job at school or a better summer job in the years to come.
Trim Your Expenses
This one might hurt a bit, but cutting back your summer spending really helps with pocket money once the semester starts. Summer parties, trips to the beach, camping excursions, even lunches out with friends—the costs pile up in no time. Play it low-key and close-to-home for a low-cost summer.
To keep your expenses in line, set up a budget for yourself. With all the mobile apps available now for this purpose, budgeting takes a lot less time, plus it's a great habit that will help you get through school.
Tip: get to know your local library’s free movie, music, and video game resources for a whole season of free entertainment.
Explore a Payment Plan
Lots of colleges (including IPFW) offer payment plans to help students spread the cost of tuition across installments. This reduces the financial shock of paying in one large lump.
You need to apply for most payment plans, so check out the payment options your school offers now and get your application in right away.
Consider Other Schools
If the financial aid offers from the colleges you applied aren't what you hoped they'd be, it’s not too late to find another school.
Schools with rolling admissions continue to accept applicants until they reach their enrollment caps. That means many of them take applications well into the summer. You may have missed your opportunity for scholarship funding from a rolling admissions school, but you may be able to find one with a much lower price tag than your current options. For example, some state schools offer in-state tuition to certain out-of-state residents. Here is a list of five colleges in Indiana with rolling admissions.
Schools with traditional admissions sometimes have openings even after their official deadlines. If you’re interested in a particular school, call the admissions department and ask if you can still apply.
Community colleges accept new students up until the semester begins. For price, it’s hard to beat community colleges. And after you’ve saved a little money, you can transfer to a four-year school.
Learn About Other Ways to Pay for College
For other tips on paying for college, including information on scholarships, federal grants, and loans, click below for a financial aid quick guide.